Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Refuse Nothing Vegan

I am addicted to tea. Black Tea. With Caffeine. At least 2 cups per day, or I become a monster. Normally, this doesn't pose a problem. I drink 98% of my tea at home. And when I'm out, you can find tea anywhere, no matter where you are on Planet Earth. Heck, it's the most widely consumed beverage in the world! However, over the years as a vegan, I have discovered a strange stumbling block. Many hippie and/or healthy places that cater to vegans offer mostly herbal teas (and it occurs to me now I need to include most kinds of Herbal Tea in my list of things I do not like.... I'm not a fan of drinking warm meadows)... and when they do offer a Black Tea With Caffeine, it's quite often limited to Earl Grey, which is my Tea Nemesis. That tea tastes like Earl Ass. I can only assume that either all Brits are insane for drinking that stuff, or that the addition of sugar and cream (neither of which I put in my tea) makes the stuff palatable.

I start this quest by mentioning Earl Grey because it was the first of my Hated Foods to show up as a surprise since I decided to keep track of my progress. My first rule is now Refuse Nothing Vegan. We were out to brunch in Philadelphia the other day. Obviously, I ordered black tea. No one asked me what kind I wanted, so I was expecting some kind of English Breakfast or even a tragic bag of Lipton's. But there it was, smugly staring at me next to my cup of hot water.... a bag of Earl Grey. Normally, I would have made a scene, asked for something, ANYTHING, instead of the Earl Grey. I'd even resort to Green Tea, Iced Tea or (if I were particularly desperate and on the verge of becoming Monster Me) coffee. But instead, I put that teabag in and drank up my cup of Earl Grey. It wasn't good, but I drank it all. I guess I could get used to it in time? Which would be handy when I need tea to save my sanity and someone approaches me with The Grey Earl.

Later that evening, I watched the Oscars with my parents and my husband. I made a batch of French 75s for everyone else. I didn't partake, since I get no kick from Champagne. But at the end of the night, there was some Champagne left in the bottle, so I drank a glass. I guess I am not as refined of a lady as I like to pretend I am, because I just don't get sparkling wine. But really considering that I have issues with both white wine AND many carbonated drinks, can you blame me for usually taking just one sip, out of politeness, during every Champagne toast?

So, there you go. 2 Hated Drinks found me on the same day, and I bravely drained my glass both times. I can't decide which one was better. Let me do some more research on that and get back to you! :-) In the meantime, Ceylon Tea With Mango and Red Wine, how I love you both!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Unknown

My favorite person I have met over the past few years is my friend Martin. He is 87 years old, and a force to be reckoned with! About a year ago, we went out on a dinner date. I ate spaghetti with tomato sauce, he ate lamb with mint jelly. When I told him that I had, in fact, never eaten a lamb, his response was, "I pity you." I told him I didn't need pity, that I was ok with never having eaten a lamb, because I don't WANT to eat a lamb, but he insisted that I was going through life with "too many hang-ups."

In a way, I suppose he had a point. I'll be honest with you. The #1 reason I don't eat meat is that I am frankly revolted by the idea of putting a filthy, rotting corpse in my mouth. I'd have an easier time eating a vegan poop than a Chicken McNugget. Obviously, I didn't start out life with this feeling. I didn't acquire it until I had been a vegetarian for close to a decade. And I recognize that I am in a very small minority on this Earth. Most people think nothing of tossing down bacon, and don't feel disgusted about eating the dead body of a pig. So, does my distaste count as a "hang up"? I suppose it does. That said, it is a hang up I don't wish to change. I'm glad I have it, because I honestly believe it is not good for the body, the soul, or the Earth to eat meat, and I know as long as I have the gut feeling of disgust, I will not fall off the Vegan Wagon into a kettle of fish, the way oh so many of my former vegan or vegetarian friends have done.

However, I can 100% identify with having many food "hang ups" over my life, and they are what I am trying to conquer in this experiment. I set my mind to learning to like foods I thought I hated several years back, and I'm a better person for it. I now wonder, how on Earth did I live without vinegar? Or heirloom tomatoes? Or bourbon?!? I had "hang ups" about all of these things for most of my life, and looking back, I do wonder how I went so long being so close minded that I spent almost 3 decades eating plain salads and leaving a lonely tomato slice on the side of my plate every time I got a veggie burger. If I feel my life has improved by embracing some of these new foods, what more do I have to gain by getting rid of even yet still more of my food "hang ups"?

So, here is a small outline of some of my food successes and food "hang ups", just to set the stage of what I have done, and what I am trying to do now.

Success Stories!

Here are some examples of foods I would not have touched 10 years ago, but I now either love (Fennel!) or at least can tolerate enough to eat (Kale!).

* Vinegar (from Balsamic to Malt Vinegar, I now love them all)
* Whiskey (Scotch, Bourbon, Sour Mash, I taught myself to love it all.... perhaps TOO much!)
* Ketchup
* Pickles
* Mustard
* Kale
* Fennel
* Beets
* Asparagus
* Tomatoes
* Cabbage
* Coffee
* Squash
* Zucchini
* Chard
* Carbonated Beverages (I drank soda as a child, but lost tolerance for it between the ages of 15 and 30)
* Green Onions
* Gin
* Eggplant
* Cooked Onions
* Ginger Ale

So, since I have mastered all of those things, here is a list of foods I either dislike or HATE that I am going to tackle and see if I can learn to like, through repetition. I'll try and list them from Most Hated to Least Hated:

* Raw Onions
* Grapefruit
* Tonic Water
* Radishes
* Ginger Beer
* Dried Seaweed (not what you'd get in maki, but the seaweed snack type stuff)
* Radicchio
* Beer
* Green Tea Flavored treats
* Baklava
* Mole
* Cranberries / Cranberry Juice
* Tabbouleh
* White Wine
* Earl Grey Tea
* Tiramisu
* Champagne
* Pickled Ginger
* Broccoli Raab
* Mineral Water

I'm sure I'll think of more as time goes by...

And for fun, here are a few things I have never had, that I don't know for a fact that I dislike, but I feel like I probably hate them by default.

* Endive
* Parsnips
* Spaghetti Squash
* Kohlrabi
* Turnips
* Chicory

Basically, my goal is not to be some annoying Picky Pants who will refuse to eat anything vegan, due to some "hang up." WISH ME LUCK! Because I truly cannot imagine willingly eating a raw onion!!!

Just What the World Needs... Another Blog!

I never thought I'd seriously try to maintain an official blog. I admit, I was a blogger before there was such a thing as a blog. A good 10 years ago, I would post my adventures from going on tour all across the USA with my boss, a popular folk musician. Back then, I would post my "Road Diary" to my personal web page, at about 2 AM each night, using dial-up connections in one shitty Motel 6 after another. I enjoyed doing it, I had my fans, but once I stopped touring so massively, and I settled down with a husband and a cat, well, I didn't have much to say.... and what I did have to say could be summed up in a Facebook status update!

Anyway, here is the basic premise this blog is about. I have been a vegetarian for 22 years, and vegan for 14 years. I will say right up front that I am not the World's Strictest Vegan, and I'm not going to have any arguments about my diet from the vegan police. I could probably be better described as an Extremely Strict Vegetarian With A 99% Vegan Diet, but for this blog and for clarity, let's just call me a vegan.

Growing up, I was an extremely picky eater. I didn't like any vegetables or condiments. I lived off of total garbage... The likes of bologna sandwiches, chicken fingers and Yodels. When I stopped eating meat, at age 17, I remained as picky. I added tofu to my diet, but still mostly subsisted on bread, pasta and cheese. When I became vegan, at age 24, I knew something had to change, so I learned to cook.... but still, I lived off of pasta, bread and fake meat. I barely ate vegetables. I didn't like vegetables! Yes, a big hurdle for a vegan to overcome! And here's my confession: I *Still* don't like vegetables!

Over the years, I have made a conscious effort to expand my palate. And I must say, I've been very successful! I eat things now I never would have touched 10 years ago, ranging from kale to tomatoes to malt vinegar to ketchup! However, I still have a way to go.... so, here is my goal, and the point of this blog is to track this experiment: I am going to learn to like (or at least teach myself to tolerate), EVERYTHING that is vegan. I figure, my diet is already limited, due to my ethical beliefs and health concerns, so I should not eliminate a single food that I COULD eat as a vegan, but that I refuse to eat, due to pickiness! Basically, I will say YES to everything, again and again, until I manage to acquire a taste for even the most horrible things, like grapefruit, raw onions and (get this) Champagne! ;-)

That's the plan! More details to come!!!